Hoisted from the Archives from 10 Years Ago: John C. Danforth Looks at His Republican Party

Across the Wide Missouri: John C. Danforth: In the Name of Politics: “Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians….

…The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube. Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates…. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package…. In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and juvenile diabetes.
It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law….
The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement…. Even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement…. The work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country…. Nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another….
As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around…. Our current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots.

Originally published at www.bradford-delong.com on March 30, 2015.